I understand what you’re thinking. You can’t just show a picture of a Subaru Outback and declare it “not a Subaru Outback.” Friend, that’s exactly what I’m doing, because this is, in fact, a Honda.
And I don’t mean that this is one of those times when Honda stuck an H badge on an Isuzu or a Land Rover and went back to designing oval-piston motorcycles. This is a genuine Honda product, designed and engineered as, for, with regards to, serving the purpose to be a Honda.
The name of the car is the Honda Orthia. We never got it in the States, though in hindsight Honda really should have made it happen.
What you’re looking at is basically a sixth-generation Honda Civic wagon with the all-wheel drive system of the original CR-V and Odyssey. Introduced in 1996, you could buy one with a B18 or B20 four-cylinder making either 140 or 145 horsepower, which is about as much as you got from a Subaru at the time. The difference was the Subaru weighed just over 3,000 pounds and the Honda was about 300-500 pounds lighter. The Orthia was between 2,500 and 2,800 pounds, to be exact.
That also made the car a fair bit lighter than the Honda CR-V of the time (about as heavy as the Subaru at 3,100 pounds) and as the Odyssey (about 3,400 pounds). Full specs are still up on Honda’s archive, if you’re curious.
But c’mon. In Clover Green Pearl with two-tone, it really did look like Honda was trolling Subaru. This is just an Outback.
And that’s what makes me so surprised that Honda never brought this car to America. The Japanese market got the car until 2002, and then still got a stripped-down, small-engine commercial version called the Partner through 2006. Honda had every opportunity to see that the Outback was taking off in the wintery parts of America, but steered clear.
Whatever. Product planning isn’t my job! But in a few years when these cars are available for import, I would love to see them tearing up rallycross courses all over the country.
(Hat Tip to The Barber!)